Applying social media principles to patient interactions

Social media is a visual platform. Photos and videos grab attention. Memes go viral. Infographics convey complex statistics in a way that's easily understandable and shareable. While social media is often criticized, much can be gained from understanding and operating within its guiding principles. The same rules that result in online success can boost offline success, as well. Every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to create loyalty and generate referrals. The four principles of social media can help you to capitalize on these opportunities.

Jen McGuire

Social media is a visual platform. Photos and videos grab attention. Memes go viral. Infographics convey complex statistics in a way that's easily understandable and shareable. While social media is often criticized, much can be gained from understanding and operating within its guiding principles. The same rules that result in online success can boost offline success, as well. Every interaction with a patient is an opportunity to create loyalty and generate referrals. The four principles of social media can help you to capitalize on these opportunities.

Think visually. For maximum impact, your office, website, and marketing materials should strive to engage patients and prospective patients visually. Don't just tell patients that you offer cosmetic dentistry; share your before-and-after success stories in a smile book or posted artwork. Update the reception area every five years to reflect current styles. Right or wrong, patients assume that dentists who practice in up-to-date facilities are also up-to-date clinically and technologically. Sit in your dental chairs to see what patients see. Make visiting your office a pleasant experience to help patients move past their often-unpleasant associations with dental treatments.

Offer compelling content. In social media, content is king. The same standard should apply to your practice. Eliminate the mixed messages that can result from clutter in your reception area. Provide focused content that markets your brand and services. Use patient time to discuss oral health. Catching up on the news about patients' kids and families is important to building your patient relationships but should be done at the end of the appointment after you've covered all relevant health issues. Personalize communications and conversations to the needs of each patient. When presenting your treatment plan for the patient, explain why the treatment is necessary, referencing your previous discussions with the patient. Remind patients with unscheduled restorative treatment that they need to maintain their recommended recare schedule so you can monitor the condition of the decayed and/or damaged teeth.

Be authentic.Your brand should be a reflection of your beliefs and values. While trends in dentistry come and go, your primary messages to patients should always represent your brand. Make sure everyone in the office practices your standard of care. Consistency in patient messaging supports and builds authenticity and authority. Personalize your website with information about your team, and ensure that customer service is at the top of your team's priority list. Patients consistently rank their experiences at the front desk and in hygiene appointments as top reasons for leaving dental practices. Spend time networking with professionals whose businesses have the same customer base as your practice to develop cross-referral relationships. Build credibility in your community by writing an oral health advice column for the local newspaper.

Create a dialogue. Listen and ask questions. The patient experience at your office should be about the patient's needs and wants - not the doctor's. Spend time uncovering each patient's "why." Understanding patient motivations will help you build a deeper relationship with your patients and increase treatment acceptance. Patients come into the practice with their own agendas, and you won't be able to accomplish your goals for their health until you understand their motivations. An open dialogue with patients can also help you uncover signs and symptoms of systemic diseases that may impact treatment. Patients are often unaware that surgeries, illnesses, and medications should be disclosed to their dental team. Taking the time to discuss the patient's health history can potentially save his or her life.

Marketing is about doing more than mailing postcards and making a website. From how your practice and team look to the language you use with patients, everything related to your practice is a form of marketing. Spend time reviewing your patient experience for areas of improvement. For more help maximizing patient interactions and marketing your practice, visit
HenryScheinBusinessSolutions.com.


Jen McGuire
With more than a decade of marketing experience in the health-care industry, Jen McGuire now leads the marketing of Henry Schein Dental's Business Solutions. As part of this offering, Jen developed and launched dentistry's first wellness program, Total HealthTM Beyond the Mouth. Contact her at (800) 372-4346 or at jen.mcguire@henryschein.com. Learn more at www.HenryScheinBusiness
Solutions.com.

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